Last November, when two of Montgomery County's last three "dry" districts voted to repeal the 65-year prohibition on liquor sales, some county Cassandras predicted dire results.
The measure passed overwhelmingly in the developing areas around Darnestown and Clarksburg, leaving the Damascus district looking down like Mount Ararat from the last dry peak of Montgomery County.
But the flood of off-site beer sales that some residents feared is closer to a trickle. Only a handful of new beer and wine licenses has been granted -- hard liquor sales are the province of the county government -- and police records show 1985 drunk-driving arrests in the Germantown precinct, which includes Darnestown and Clarksburg, are down 77 from the first six months of last year.
Lynn Keller of the Montgomery County Board of Liquor Licenses said two licenses have been granted in Clarksburg and one in Darnestown, with another pending. Carryouts in neighboring towns including Cedar Grove, Germantown and Hyattstown have gotten in on the act as well.
Eric Rudden, who used to send would-be beer hunters either five miles north over the line into Frederick County or five miles south toward Gaithersburg, said he's selling "maybe a few hundred cases a week" of wine and beer.
"It's mostly locals," Rudden said. "It's no great influx; we still have beer dealers five miles on either side."
Art Fleming, manager of the three-month-old Glenvilah Deli near Potomac, wouldn't estimate the volume of business the store is doing, but said his clientele is "definitely" increasing.
But the influx of new brew hasn't lured all the Montgomery County connoisseurs away from their former haunts. Across the Frederick County line in Urbana, where the Country Market stocks beers from Israel to Australia, Joe McGrath said business hasn't fallen off at all.
"They still come up for the imports," he said.